How would you describe your everyday life?
For most of us, days are rather predictable. Day after day, for the most part, we could enter into our diary the same three words: “No Big Deal!”
Life offers few possibilities for really transforming our existence.
However days that begin uneventfully can also lead into an unbelievable, indescribable series of heart-stopping experiences. Ordinary days in fact can become extraordinary. They can become so different, so pivotal that they can change the entire course of our life.
It might be that you learn the coming of a child that wasn’t planned for or maybe the loss of a job that seemed assured…
Biblically speaking, there have been some extraordinary events that have occurred, that surprised everyone and changed the course of people’s life. Can you think of some examples?
Here’s what a well known author wrote on this subject. “Fit yourself for God’s service; be faithful. He will presently appoint thee… In some unlikely quarter, in a shepherd’s hut, or in an artisan’s cottage, God has His prepared and appointed instrument. As yet the shaft is hidden in His quiver, in the shadow of his hand; but at the precise moment at which it will tell with the greatest effect, it will be produced and launched on the air.”
Why do I tell you this? Because it’s exactly how it happened with Esther. At first, Esther is an unknown orphan, with no connection to the most powerful man in the Persian Empire. Yet God, in His providential tapestry, was weaving these two unrelated lives together. With a smiling face, He began it all on one of those ordinary kind of days. Esther’s launch day began like any other day.
Look at the bible record.
Let’s begin with chapter 1 v. 1, “…”
The introduction is ordinary, is it not? The story begins like any other mundane, historical account… It is the story of just another king, living out another day of another year.
Let’s continue with verses 3 and 4 “…”
“The third year of his reign (keep this date in mind, we we’ll come back to it), the king decided to throw a party.
The length of this feast was 180 days. Can you believe that? We’re talking of six full months of banqueting, which makes today’s celebrity blowouts look like stingy potlucks!
During these 6 months, the king exhibited his wealth and glory. There were probably slaves from his conquered countries showing off his jewelry boxes, his gold, weird animals...
It had all the ingredients of a pagan celebration, loud music, wild dancing, too much eating, drinking to excess... From start to finish the praises of the king were lavishly displayed. He wanted this. He was as proud as a peacock.
The archeologists verified this character in him. They unearthed at Susa inscriptions in which the king referred to himself as “the king of kings, the great king, and the king of the great earth. Old Ahaseurus didn’t struggle with an inferiority complex!
He wanted everyone to know his wealth. So, he invited even the little people to his party.
In verses 5-8, we read: “…”
It was the celebration of a lifetime, a banquet to be remembered. But something important was missing from the scene – the queen herself. She was giving her own separate banquet for the women in the palace.
Verses 9 goes on to say, “…”
But then something happened. One of those unexpected but pivotal moments that change everything. Look in verses 10-11 “…”
Inevitably, all this revelry led to excess, debauchery and drunkenness. By now the king was drunk. And in his intoxicated state, he began to act like an idiot.
He decided to show off another of his prizes: the physical beauty of his queen. He ordered her to be brought into the banquet hall, wearing her royal head-dress. He wanted his own private beauty pageant for all of his drunken guests to enjoy and envy.
Scholars have wrestled with the meaning of the king’s command. Some suggest it simply meant that Vasthi was to come unveiled, which would have been scandal enough in the Persian court. Others suggest that she was to come wearing only her crown, which would have been another kind of scandal. But whatever it meant, the queen just said no!
Look in verse 12: “…”
Alexander Whyte, a Scottish preacher in the 19th century wrote this on the subject, “The sacred writers makes us respect Queen Vasthi amid all her disgusting surroundings… whatever the royal order that came to her out of the banqueting-hall exactly was, the brave queen refused to obey it. Her beauty was her own and her husband’s: it was not for open show among the hundreds of half drunk men. And in the long run, the result of that night’s evil work was that Vasthi was dismissed into disgrace and banishment”
Yes, let’s admire this queen who had enough courage to say no to what would have been a moral compromise! In resisting this insulting act of indignity, she took a stand against the greatest power in her universe. Good for her!
Allow me to tell you today, that submission doesn’t mean that a wife is a sexual pawn in the carnal desires of her husband. It was never God’s design that a wife submit to her husband’s evil desires. In king Ahasuerus’s case, this took the form of desiring to display her before those who would have nothing in mind but lust. What he asked was not submission, it was sexual slavery.
The Bible speaks about giving ourselves to one another, but not making the other a sexual slave. I applaud queen Vasthi for her brave decision.
Marriage doesn’t give a man the right or the licence to fulfill his basest fantasies by using his wife as a sexual object.
Sometimes I am shocked when I hear what some husbands demand of their wives in the name of submission. It is rather insulting and shameful.
So a word of warning for the men here: “Be careful what you ask of the woman God has given you. Be certain that it doesn’t assault her dignity as a person, or turn a precious human being, created in God’s image, into a sexual object for your own carnal gratification.”
Ahasuerus didn’t understand this principal, for you see that the refusal from his wife caused a strong reaction in him. Verses 12-15, “…” and then v. 16-20, “…”
I wonder if Memucan’s extreme reaction indicates that he maybe had some problems with submission in his home.
Why did he need to send such a strong message? It’s as if he was personally afraid of something and wanted to use this incident to send a scrambled message to his wife.
Whatever it be, these events resulted in a vacant position in the king’s palace. And, God’s hand was already at work. He was ready to use this set of circumstances.
Starting at this point, we can say, “goodbye Vasthi and hello Esther!”
Of course, Esther has no idea what God is doing. She knows nothing yet of the events transpiring in the palace. She also knows nothing yet about this “Royal edict” which will set events in motion that will totally change her own life. Esther is going about her no-big-deal business, living her life, greeting the sunrise of each ordinary morning, carrying out her day-to-day responsibilities. Boy, is she in for a surprise!
It’s like this that the will of God takes shape. Working behind the scenes, He sis moving, pushing and rearranging events and changing minds until He brings out of even the most carnal and secular settings a decision that will set His perfect plan in place.
Don’t fall in the trap of thinking that God is asleep when it comes to nations, or that He is out of touch when it comes to carnal banquets, or that He sits in heaven wringing His hands when it comes to godless rulers who make unfair, rash or stupid decisions. Mark it down with permanent ink: God is always at work
Let’s continue the account in verses 21-22 “…”
Make no mistake about it, I am all for submission of a women to men. It’s a biblical principle that God commands in the bible. The men should be the leaders of the household. But I don’t support behavior that seeks to humiliate and is depraved. But husbands, we don’t get obedience by fiat. We don’t bring about submission through fear.
Let’s keep the long view in all of this. In the midst of what is happening in the king’s banquet hall, God’s heart remains attached to his people, even to this remnant of Jews carried away from Zion and living in exile in Persia. To keep his promise of preservation, He must protect them from extinction, and the means to do that are at hand. The events have been set in motion to make it possible. A vacancy has opened up at the very top, in the king’s household, and predictably, God has someone waiting in the wings to fill that vacancy. He is going to move the king’s heart to be receptive to his plans.
In regard to this subject, look with me in Proverbs Ch. 21: 1: “…”
This passage perfectly describes what’s happening here.
Ahasuerus thinks of himself as the king of the world.
He organizes a banquet that lasts 6 months in order to demonstrate this. Yet, all he is a little tributary – a channel- in the hands of Almighty God. The Lord is in control.
God can move the hearts of the rulers of this world wherever and whenever He wishes. And in case you have forgotten He is in no hurry.
We tend to think that if God is really engaged, He will change things within the next hour or so. Certainly by sundown! Our Lord has proved more than once that he doesn’t work according to time constraints. Compared to the works of mankind, He is extremely deliberate and painfully slow. As a religious poet penned “God’s mill grinds slow but sure.”
We need to keep in our thoughts that God can redirect the lives of those we believe to be unchangeable. He can also redirect the ones for whom we have lost hope because they seem to be too far into their rebellion to be changed. Ahasuerus’ case is a perfect example. In chapter 1, he seems to be the most perverted despot, but in his drunkenness he dismisses his favorite wife, but then God starts acting and the king starts to regret his decision.
Look with me in chapter 2: 1-4 “…”
The text seems to indicate that the king is depressed after dismissing the queen. Even those who serve him start to notice his pain and come to him with a solution.
There are two or three details that don’t appear directly in the text that we need to know if we want to understand his change of heart. You see something happens between chapter 1 and 2, that is not explained here.
When some girls are presented to him, a certain number of years have already gone by. I told you earlier today to remember the fact that in chapter 1, we were in the 3rd year of king Ahasuerus’ reign. (that was in 483 B.C and he was crowned in 485 B.C). In chapter 2:16, when Esther is presented, it’s the 7th year of Xerxes reign (Ahasuerus’ other name), which means it’s now 479B.C. It’s in this year, that his candidates are prepared in oil and perfumed.
It’s not apparent here, but history teaches us that during this time Ahasuerus made an ambitious but disastrous attempt to conquer Greece. So he had returned home in the shame of defeat.
Picture it. He comes home to his beautiful palace, exhausted by his military campaign, dispirited by defeat. He longs for someone to greet him with outstretched arms, someone who will offer words of comfort and understanding. Not just a servant or one of his officers eager to please the king, but someone who truly cares for him and his feelings. Perhaps for the first time this monarch knows true defeat and loneliness.
With all the things that have been happening, his anger against Vasthi is long since forgotten. He remembers only her beauty, the warmth of ther arms and the comfort of her understanding. With his spirits at this low ebb, he goes into a period of depression. Who will be able to comfort him?
In Chapter 2: 5-7 we find another pivot. We are now introduced to the 2 people that God will use to respond to the needs of the king and his people. “…”
Esther is now presented to us. We learn 2 things about her. First that she was orphaned and second, that she has grown up to become a young woman of incredible beauty. The text literally says that she was beautiful in form and lovely to look at.
And she will win the king’s heart.
However, at this moment, she knows nothing yet about palace politics, about the lonely king, or of the future that will be hers. She is simply living out the rather uneventful days of her young life, having no idea that she will one day be crowned the most beautiful woman in the kingdom as well as the new queen of the Persian kingdom.
My, the ways of God unfathomable!
We will stop here to mention the lessons that we get from all this.
The first lesson here is : God’s plans are not hindered when the events of this world are carnal or secular.
God is present and active! It matters little what’s going on in the world’s party rooms.
Contrary to what some people think, His actions aren’t limited to Christian homes. He is as much at work in Matignon as He is in your preacher’s study. He is as much active in China, in Arabia, in Iraq, in France, as in America.
Doubting this fact is to limit the sovereign control of God. Moreover, if we refuse to yield to this point, we risk not being apart of the grand scheme of events in our time. We risk being stuck in our small existence and solely what goes on in the comfort of our churches. In falling into this trap, we will end up by not being the light of the world or the salt of the earth as we should.
God is at work, he moves in all places, and touches all lives. He shapes the kingdoms. He is never surprised by what humans decide to do.
Just because the motives of some people are secular, fleshly and unrighteous doesn’t mean that God is absent. God works in spite of those who don’t glorify him.
Secondly, God’s purposes for our lives aren’t frustrated by moral or marital failures.
Is this not particularly encouraging if you have morally or maritally failed?
Think about how Ahasuerus lived before God used him. Think about his corrupted parties, the vulgarity of his thoughts which brought him to the point of treating a woman like a piece of meat. Think about his selfish and cruel decision to dismiss his wife and divorce her.
In spite of all that, God used him, so he can also use us.
How do I know this? Because in the Bible, I see that He is a God who applies grace to the long view of life. He is full of goodness.
Thirdly, God doesn’t exclude his children from high or influential positions because of handicap or hardship.
Never discard someone who may be in an important position, just because of a rough beginning or because he seems to have disadvantages.
Esther was a Jewish woman in an exiled country. She was also an orphan with no nobility. Yet nothing at all could stop God from exalting her to the position he wanted her to have.
Where are you today on your journey? Are you discounting the significance of your days? Are you sighing rather than singing? Are you wondering what good can come from all that you have to live with? The kids you can’t handle? A marriage that lacks harmony? The pressures that seem to have no purposes?
The hand of God isn’t too short to save, nor are his ears too closed to listen. Whether you see it or not, He is at work in your life today. God is a specialist in turning the mundane in to the meaningful. God not only moves in unusual ways, He also moves on uneventful days. He is just as involved in the mundane events as He is in the miraculous. He is at work in palaces and in small cottages, in the lives of the great and the lives of the small. Like Howie Stevenson once said, “God moves among the casseroles.”
Esther’s story is full of encouragement for us. God is active in all earthly kingdoms. And we in our earthly pilgrimage must stay pure and committed to God’s cause. We should remain sensitive to His will that works even in fleshly and secular places where there are drunks. Only then can we bring to our broken world the hope it so desperately needs.
Esther did that; you can do that too, starting today, with this apparently ordinary day that seems so common, so full of, well … casseroles.